Betrayed by the Call of the Sea
Hannah, Age 15, Langley, BC

It is a wild tempestuous night - the night I leave this world forever. As I lie here, in this cold forbidding place, I can hear the waves pounding, seething, frothing, scouring at the boulders again and again. Lightening slashes the sky apart, tearing at the dark, menacing the clouds, driving the sea onward, daring it in a battle of elements. Thunder crackles back, defying its creator, shuddering waves of angry sound. Mountains of water, clashing together, rearing up, throwing their foaming heads at the roaring heavens, hurtle to and fro. Sheets of rain pour down, eroding the earth, irritating the already furious waters. The land vibrates, as if recoiling at the violence of the boiling maelstrom. Above all rises the voice of the wind, shrieking as if tormented by some unseen force. I have but a short time left. I see I must write quickly.

Long ago, when I first was a child, I seemed to hear but one thing. The call of the sea. Nowhere could I be found so often as sitting in the harbor, smelling the fresh salt air mixed with the odors of the crowded market. Foreign spices warm and sweet mingled with the odor of death, slave ships crowded with merchandise. The clamor of gold and silver trinkets mixed pleasantly with the wailing of slaves, and the crack of the whip. Sacrificial drums, strange balms, and oils filled the air with their scents and sounds. Floating silks, Egyptian cotton, priceless jewels, gorgeous piles of colorful fruits made a picture for the eye, adding to the already crowded senses of the nose and ear. But beyond and above all these, there sang in my ear the soft and entrancing call of the sea. She always seemed to me to be in a perpetual state of delightedness. I loved her best in every new mood, when the storms clouds growled to her, and she snarled an answer back. When she grew calm as a sweet summer day, with soft promises of murmuring beauty. Fool that I was, I see it now, a young innocent entranced by the promise of adventure, seeking nothing but truth and beauty. My mother, having already lost numerous family members to the sea, and who this night must lose one more, refused my repeated requests to become a seafarer. I ran away.

Deeply, deeply do I regret that now. I was engaged to a girl whom I was very fond of, but the sea called, and I felt I must answer. As I look back, I see my choices now, oh so differently than I saw them then.. On the one hand, Life lay before me, beckoning me with all its beauty, true beauty. On the other lay the sea, cold and forbidding, but to one like I, warm and adventurous, it lay as a promise of distant lands, exotic natures, and budding glories. I intended only to run away for a time, enough to bring home some of the splendor which I felt sure would ensue. But once I sailed, the sea no longer was my friend. Too many times had she tricked me into sailing, and then turned against me, storm after storm, mocking laughter, raucous and loud. Not once during those horrible years did I hear her murmuring call, save when she lured me once more into her menacing jaws. I saw it then, as I do now, in its true state, the enemy of all mankind! I remember, ah, the memory is never fa r from my mind, of the time I sailed for England, and home. After a desperate number of voyages, all failing because of her, I resolved to make for home. The sea promised a safe voyage, and once more I foolishly trusted her. Incredibly she stayed calm and I thought perhaps she took pity on me, and called herself my friend once more.. The first month, I blessed her, called her all the pet names I could think of, and her gentle murmurs comforted me. Her loving call helped me endure the tedious trip. As I walked the deck, the day of the second month, I began to murmur back to the sea. I exalted in her beauty. But hark! The lookout spotted a squall in the east. I rushed to the foredeck, begging her for mercy. Alas, that was not to be. A cloud, nay, not a cloud. How does one explain that ominous mass unless to call it a very figment of that damned place below. Dead black, blotting out all everything except the ragged ribbons of shattered light that flashed again and again across i t. Waves began crashing against the deck, howls from the wind blotting out all sound. Surely the sea must be the habitat of the devil. No devil could live in fire once he has seen the sea in its anger! Waves, roaring with hideous laughter, crying out in mockery of my fear! Tearing timbers apart like toothpicks! Struggling with the lightening one minute, and holding hands the next. I swear it grabbed men with foam-flecked fingers! Thunder crashed, rumbling at the lightening! Lightening flaming back! Rain pouring down, snatching at the sea, each raindrop pounding on a fearsome instrument. Heaven bellowing out loud in her anger. I cried out to the sea in my terror, and she turned on me. Titanic waves, surged towards me, sweeping me off my feet, tossing me from hand to hand like a cat toying with its prey. At that point I lost consciousness and knew no more. When I awoke, the sea was gently rocking me, dappled waves smiling in a flood of gentle sunlight. Fool, FOOL, FOOL! that I was, I once again fell under her sardonic spell. I sat on a floating plank, entranced by the beauty that surrounded me. The call of the sea had once again overtaken me. But lo, the sun grew hot. The glare from the waves mocking my thirst. I realized anew the meaning of the poem,

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

Laughter rippled in my ears as I slowly weakened. How bitterly I cursed myself! I called upon heaven to end my wretched misery. Before I fully swooned I heard the distant call of a pounding surf.

I awoke violently, choking with the taste of saltwater. I felt the sea’s long fingers slowly pulling me down. I fought desperately, and on a whim, she changed her mind and thrust me violently against the rocks. I lost consciousness once more. Upon awaking, I stumbled frantically into the jungle, panting like a dog. I heard a stream nearby, and rushing towards the sound, I plunged my head in and drank deeply. I then began to wander for food. I found some food, built a rough structure, and fell asleep. Over the following days I gradually deteriorated. For yet again, the call of the sea permeated my life. I was never out of sound of its soft scornful murmur. It was the song I lived to, slept to, awoke to, and even breathed to. As I now write this chronicle, I feel my heartbeats giving way to its life taking melody. I am lying on the beach, scratching my story onto a scroll of bark. As the storm grows in violence and intensity, I hear the death in its laughter, taking me for its own, I must yield- I am gone...

Postscript: Every year a ship visited the islands on which this man had died. They found him there, perfectly healthy in every way, except for his being dead. No further evidence could be found, and he was taken on board. He was found to be clutching a scroll of bark, which could not be wrenched from his hand. After careful maneuvering it was pried away, and read. This was his story.

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